RIP, Uncle Joe

March 28, 2010

Indulge me.

obituary Joseph Porcello

Joseph A. Porcello, 1920-2010

U.S. Veteran Joseph A. Porcello, 89, of Manlius, passed away March 28, 2010, after a long illness. Joe was born in Gratteri, Sicily, in 1920 to Robert and Santa Porcello. Uncle Joe was my mother’s oldest brother. Robert and Santa were my maternal grandparents.

When he was four years old, he came to America with his mother and sister to join his father, who was already living and working in New York City. Joe was always very proud of the fact that when he came to the United States he came as an American citizen.

He moved with his family to Elmira, New York, where he attended school and was active in several junior and senior high publications. It was there that he developed his lifelong love of journalism and news writing. There it is. I’m the only one in the family who wrote professionally, besides Uncle Joe.

After graduation he joined the Army Air Corps and served in the Aleutian Islands during World War II.

After his discharge at the end of the war, Joe briefly attended the University of Rochester where he met his wife Barbara, the love of his life. Aunt Barbara truly was the love of his life. He often called her “his bride,” even in their golden years.

They were married in 1947 and moved to Syracuse where he attended Syracuse University under the GI bill and worked at the “Daily Orange” for four years, rising to the position of associate editor. I also attended Syracuse University’s journalism program.

Joe graduated from SU with a degree in journalism in 1949, and in 1951 joined the Syracuse newspapers as a reporter for the “Herald Journal.” During his thirty-five year career at the Herald, Joe covered the courts, education, and local and city news. For fourteen years he was the business editor, writing a well-known weekly column covering all aspects of business in Central New York. As it turned out, one of the editorial page editors in the Tampa Bay area worked with my uncle, something we found out quite by accident.

Joe was a founding member of the Syracuse Press Club and served as president in 1961. He received the club’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 1998 and was chosen for inclusion in the “Wall of Distinction” as a member of the first class of inductees in 2000. In 1989, three years after his retirement, Joe co-authored the book “Syracuse – The Heart of New York”, which included profiles of 55 local companies and several chapters highlighting the history and attractions of Central New York.

Joe was an active member of St. Ann’s parish in Manlius for over fifty years, where he ushered faithfully. He was also an active member of the St. Antiques senior group. He was a member of the Manlius Senior Center, served on the Limestone Gardens board of directors, and was active with the Syracuse Newspapers retiree group and the Town of Manlius TRIAD organization. He also loved to bowl and was a member of numerous leagues over his lifetime.

Joe was predeceased by his beloved wife Barbara; his sisters, Mary Porcello and Santa Cassara; and his brother, Jack Porcello. Santa Cassara was my mother.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Alzheimer’s Association, 441 W. Kilpatrick St., Syracuse, NY 13204. Yes, the same scourge that took my father.

And then this, from the Syracuse Press Club:

The Wall of Distinction

(C) 2008 Syracuse Press Club.

Joseph A. Porcello
Herald American
Press Club President: 1961

Joe Porcello decided what he wanted to do with his life when he was 11 years old. He wanted to be a writer. He had just finished Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer.” Twain had resided in Elmira after marrying Olivia Langdon, whose home was a half block from where Joe’s family lived. After he learned Twain (Samuel Clemens) had been a newspaperman, Joe decided he, too, could hone his writing skills on a newspaper.

Joe spoke no English when he arrived in New York in 1924 from Sicily with his mother, but he was determined to write. So he heeded the advice of his cousins in Brooklyn to learn the language. Reading helped Joe learn quickly, and English soon became one of his best subjects in school.

In the seventh grade, he helped to start a class newspaper. He worked four years on his high school paper, and four years on the Daily Orange (associate editor in his senior year) while a journalism major at Syracuse University. He even wrote news and features for the Aleutian Echo, an Air Force monthly, while stationed in the Aleutians during World War II.

After seven years as a newsboy, Joe got his first daily newspaper job – wrapping newspapers for delivery to stores and handling cash sales to newsboys at Elmira’s Star Gazette. He took the job in circulation hoping it would help him get upstairs in the newsroom. It did. He was hired in 1949 as state editor for the Elmira Advertiser upon graduation from SU.

He returned to SU that fall on a fellowship. In 1950, he took a job at the Auburn Citizen. In March 1951, he joined the Syracuse Herald-.Journal where he worked until he “retired” in 1986.

His first reporting assignment was county government and hotels. Next he covered courts for 15 years, worked on the city desk and filled in for vacationing staff (including Business Editor Ken Sparrow) until he was named business editor in 1971. He covered business and industry and wrote a Sunday business column in the Herald American for the next 14-plus years.

Among the honors Joe received is a prize in the annual statewide New York Bar Association competition on court reporting, several business awards, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Syracuse Press Club, which he helped found in 1951 and served as president in 1961.

Joe got what he considers the only true “scoop” of his career in 1976, while covering a savings banks meeting in Colorado Springs. While touring NORAD’s headquarters, he learned of plans to close Syracuse’s Hancock Air Base. An interview with a general at NORAD’s headquarters confirmed the report, and Joe was able to dictate a story the next morning in time for the H-J’s first edition.

Joe covered many top business stories, including United Technologies’ takeover of Carrier Corp. and the coming of the Anheuser-Busch and Miller breweries to Central New York.

In retirement, Joe continued writing by doing four company profiles for a New York State book. In 1988-89, he wrote 55 company profiles and three chapters of the local business book, “Syracuse — The Heart of New York.” He also worked part-time for Eagle Newspapers and wrote magazine articles.

About his original goal, Joe says, “I found newspaper writing so interesting, I put fiction writing on the back burner. But now I am getting back to it with a book.”

I don’t think he ever did get back to fiction.

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